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Widescreen Wonders - Movie Quality with HDTV


Ever go to the cinema and as you are watching the movie and eating popcorn wish you could replicate your enjoyable experience at home? Well the good news is you can with a widescreen HDTV. In a nutshell, HDTV is a widescreen wonder for television’s greatest supporters, not to mention it has true movie quality brought to life.

In order to consider the value of a widescreen HDTV one must look at the screen aspect ratio. A screen aspect ratio is a measurement of the television screen’s horizontal length (or width) and vertical height as well as the relationship that exists between the two. A conventional television screen is a tad bit wider than it is long, as it is basically 4 units wide by 3 units tall (written as 4:3 or '4-by-3'). A quick glance at your own television set should make this very obvious.

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On the other hand a widescreen HDTV boasts much more of a rectangular size and has a screen aspect ratio of 16:9 which means that the television is 16 units long for every 9 units it represents in height (giving it another name as well, a 16x9 television). This gives rise to a television with a much wider image than on a standard 4:3 set. Both television programs that are filmed in widescreen format as well as major motion pictures that are also filmed in the same manner can be displayed much more realistically but with very clear, smoother images.

As HDTV becomes more and more popular with the viewing public the advantages of purchasing a widescreen (or 16x9) television that imitates a screen in a movie cinema becomes evident. Coupled with this are the other advancements in the home entertainment world such as the move to make all broadcasting DTV/HDTV and the soon-to-be introduced onto the market, Blu-ray and HD-DVD (facets of high-definition DVD technology). Widescreen televisions are not only becoming the 'in' thing, but they are also becoming the 'practical' thing.

Watching a movie on a videotape can be an eye opening experience on a widescreen TV but lots of regular programming can also have the same effect. A perfect example of this is viewing sporting events, such as football, baseball, soccer or hockey. The reason for this is simple- on a standard 4:3 television set viewers are used to shots that are wide but distant, but on a widescreen 16x9 the entire field the team is playing on can be watched in one big wide shot with the shot being at an up close and personal vantage point. It is definitely a treat for the eyes to view an event you enjoy and feel as if you are really there in the bleachers cheering your team on.

Two channels that have incorporated a lot of widescreen television programming include the Discovery channel and PBS which feature a number of historical, science and/or educational programs. More and more movies shown on television or made for television are being broadcast in the widescreen format. The widescreen format of broadcasting is being utilized for a variety of different television series' as well. Examples of this include Angel, Babylon5, Enterprise, ER, Smallville and Stargate SG1. You don't have to currently subscribe to HDTV to receive some programs that are broadcast in non-HD versions of HDTV. An example of this is The Sopranos. Most television guides will list whether or not shows are broadcast in a widescreen format or not. Another name for widescreen format is 'letterbox format.'

Plenty of consumers are still watching 4:3 television sets that feature programs in a widescreen format. This also can be said for DVD watching as well. This presents a challenge for the viewer. When watching widescreen HDTV programs on a conventional television set, both the top and bottom of the screen there are black bars visible. This is referred to as 'letterboxing' (or letterbox format as previously mentioned). Individuals who do not understand this concept completely often feel that the widescreen format is failing them or it is not as worthwhile or as thrilling to watch as they had expected it would be. However in reality this is not the case at all.

The majority of films that came out after the year 1953, and also most since that time, are filmed in a variety of different widescreen film formats. There are a number of these but the most commonly used ones include Cinemascope, Panavision, Cinerama, Technirama and Vista-Vision. In order for it to be possible to view a widescreen film on a 4:3 television set, moviemakers must meticulously take the time to re-edit the film in what is called a Pan-and-Scan format in order to retain as much of the original images from the film as they can. When you see the message 'This film has been formatted to fit your television screen' before the start of a movie it is this process of re-editing that is being referred to.


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